Eight surprising facts about St George

28 February 2018

St George’s Day is almost upon us. But who was St George? Here are some facts that may surprise you about England’s patron saint…

1. By George, he’s not even English!
Yes, you did read that right. St George was actually born in Cappadocia, Turkey, around 270AD.  

2. But he was a soldier…
St George was a high-ranking officer in the Roman army who protested against the Romans’ torture of Christians. Roman emperor Diocletian ordered his death for failing to recant his faith. And that’s how he became a Christian martyr.

3. Two Kings helped him become England’s patron saint
Edward I was a crusader and reigned from 1272-1307. He was fond of St George. His troops wore the St George’s cross to fight the Welsh. In 1300, he also raised the St George’s flag over Caerlaverock Castle in Scotland.

His grandson, Edward III reigned from 1327 to 1377. He heard stories from returning crusaders of St George's bravery. By the 14th century, St George was seen as a special protector of the English. So when Edward founded England’s Knights of the Garter, there was only one choice for patron. Later in 1415, George was named official patron saint of England.

4. He’s not just England’s patron saint though…
Popular chap this George. He’s also patron saint of countries like Ethiopia, Georgia and Portugal, and cities such as Freiburg, Moscow and Beirut. George was seen as an especially powerful intercessor. That’s a person who uses prayer on behalf of others.

Feast of St George

5. Sorry, but St George probably didn’t slay a dragon
While the dragon story is great and has universal appeal, this enduring tale probably isn’t true. In the Middle Ages dragons were used to represent the devil. So it’s more likely that St George chased away bad spirits. 

6. Shakespeare and St George share something in common
And it’s not the fact that they’re both ‘English’ folk heroes. The answer is that both died on 23 April, St George’s Day. This date is also believed to be Shakespeare’s birthday.

7. First Pageant of St George in 425 years
In 2010, for the first time since 1585, the City of London hosted a Pageant of St George. It saw St George paraded through the Square Mile on horseback. He was surrounded by the traditional figures of a king and his daughter, and a lamb led by a maiden in the parade.

8. St George and feasting
St George's Day became a major feast and national holiday in England on a par with Christmas in the early 15th century. That tradition died out over time, but London's annual Feast of St George in Trafalgar Square is packed with delicious food stalls, cooking demonstrations and live music - a great way to celebrate!

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